Brokedown in Bakersfield and Lauren Shera in Santa Cruz

Adam Joseph on November 23, 2011

Brokedown in Bakersfield and Lauren Shera
Moe’s Alley
Santa Cruz, Calif.
November 17

Opener Lauren Shera, has been garnering praise in a big way from big-time authorities. She’s recently got props from Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh:
“Every generation or two, a voice comes along that redefines what you thought you knew about music and touches you deep down in your soul…” he said. “Her voice is going to define the next generation of folk music.”

The young singer-songwriter – who recently finished a month-long stint on the Communion Tour (the brainchild of Mumford & Sons’ Ben Lovett) with Matthew & the Atlas and the David Mayfield Parade – has some mesmerizing and crisp fingerpicking chops to accompany that Lesh-loving voice. And two songs into her set, the overly talkative and wasted crowd finally was entranced with her tunes. Especially the heart-on-the-sleeve prose of “Stealth” from her recently released, Once I Was a Bird.

After Shera had the packed house under her spell, Brokedown in Bakersfield – a newly-formed, California supergroup featuring Nicki Bluhm (Gramblers), Tim (The Mother Hips) and pedal steel master, Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz (ALO) – kept the party going well past midnight. The sextet, dedicated to recreating the dusty Americana sound that came out of Bakersfield, made their debut last summer at the High Sierra Music Festival and has since been delivering spot-on covers of everyone from Buck Owens and Gram Parsons to Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn.
The second tune of the outfit’s 20-plus-song set had even the drunkest folks in attendance forgetting that their glass of well bourbon needed a refill. Nicki Bluhm’s voice sounded like a facsimile of Loretta Lynn’s as she tore through her timeless ballad, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” A couple songs later, her hubby of equal talent, lovingly – and painstakingly – revisited Merle Haggard’s “Sing Me a Sad Song” alongside the flawless pulls of Lebowitz on pedal steel.

Brokedown’s solid rendition of Haggard’s “Mama Tried” (a tune that was frequently covered by the Grateful Dead) truly brought the house down. And the band’s closing tune, Gram Parson’s “Luxury Liner,” had the well-intoxicated crowd craving more.